Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day is coming on April 23 and for a writer there’s usually not much to show my girls that they haven’t already seen. Here’s mom staring at the computer glassy eyed! Here’s mom muttering to herself pacing to and from the fridge! 14 yo G and 9 yo R would probably prefer going to school over watching that for a whole day. So when Community Word Project, a NYC arts-in-education organization active in underserved communities, invited me recently to volunteer at a poetry editing day at P.S. 279 in the Bronx, I jumped at the chance to meet young poets and brought G and R along.
We were blown away by the poetry of 7 year olds like Anthony, above, and Mamadou, below.
Topics like “My heart” and “The house” led to passionate words and spine-tingling images. After each one, G, R & I pointed out everything we loved. Writers, especially young writers, need to know when they’ve struck a chord, when something they say is surprising or touching and important. They need to be encouraged because the act of creating something original and sharing it requires bravery and we don’t want our future poets and writers giving up before they even get started. Because then we’d be missing out on art like this:
by Mamadou Keita
I wish there were stairs
Like a machine.
A Highbridge will
Yeah. We were awed as well. Mamadou said “I don’t use many words.” There was an underlying question: Is that OK? And a statement: This is my voice. “That is absolutely OK!” G, R and I rushed to say. We talked about the importance of white space and only added formatting to reflect the energy his words held. Can you imagine his poem needing anything more?
“Keep writing, keep expressing yourself,” I told him.
“You did a great job,” G and R said. We were speaking to him but they were words each of us long to hear, need to hear. Out there in the real world lie distractions, challenges, practicalities that make creative arts so hard to fathom at times as to be intangible. Here we were in the school library surrounded by real books and the buzz of real adults and children talking about ideas. And the absolute reality of these poems which will be anthologized for the children to hold, read, and show.
“Pretty cool, huh?” I asked G and R. They agreed. Writing is a cool job, whatever your age, and encouraging it is something we all can do!
Here’s how you can help Community Word Project continue programs like this:
Buy tickets for the Community Word Benefit on April 22, 2015 in NYC, donate or volunteer.
Support Katie Freeman – my brave publicist who learned how to ride a bike for her #SomeNerve Challenge last year is a returning member of Team #SomeNerve and will be riding the TD Five Boro Bike Tour and fundraising for Community Word Project on May 3. Join her fundraiser!
And how will you Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work on or around April 23? We’d love to know!